A joyous job lands in your lap. There’s excitement. Heightened anticipation. Self-imposed anxiety as you desire to deliver more than your best to an upcoming project. Then come the rehearsals. Bonding with new friends. Discoveries bloom both on and off stage or screen. You explore: viewpoints, Snickers-vodka, hang-ups and hangovers. “High-ho the glamorous life.” But then… the fun is done. The project concludes. Once more your feast has withered to famine. WTF to do?
You’re lost. No longer are there the opportunities for enjoying late-night parties with cast mates followed by the 4 AM Taco Bell runs. Departed is rowdiness (and occasional raunchiness) embraced with new peers whose names and faces will be lost to your recall six months hence. Gone are the red-eyed rehearsals following late-night excesses. There’ll be no more sharing with your bros and gal pals the snack of ‘grandma’s special brownies’ spiked with green herbs picked from a local corner ‘retailer.’ No more “I dreaded this one aspect of a scene but then I conquered my fear. I now can kick ass on any challenge.” No more pondering of a co-worker while you snuggle in their bed, “How did you get in my arms and how was I so lucky to discover you? Does this mean we move in together later? My independence forfeited to my bad habit of co-dependency? I should rethink this showmance…”
There’s no more floating within the cozy, production bubble protecting you from living reality beyond the short-lived bubble’s membrane. Protection has popped. You fall back to a hard landing on the unyielding cement that is a civilian’s path. Depression seeps up from the cracks lining life’s sidewalk. Grief anchors your legs. Sadness mires your spirit. Welcome to what nearly all performing artists suffer at least once in their career: Post Project Blues a.k.a. Show Withdrawal.
The best remedies against Post Project Blues for when you’re suddenly unemployed are:
- Seek future work prior while working. Set aside time from temporary play associated with your current project so that you may invest in your long-term career. Do your digital and hard-copy marketing to highlight to future employers and gatekeepers your current work. A working actor is far more attractive to an employer than a desperate, unemployed artist pleading for attention. Work begets work.
- When your current project ends delve deep into tasks that will further propel your career forward. Engage strongly in expanding your marketing, networking, auditions, and classes. To continue growing a successful career, the previously highlighted activities must never be abandoned during an actor’s journey. Investments in yourself spark your synapses and opportunity.
- Return to your routine of life’s daily rituals (exercise, strolls, and meet-ups with friends). Return to life you enjoyed prior to your most recent creative project that had scheduled your every available moment.
- Hold fond the memory of the recent experience but don’t dwell on what no longer exists. Focus on the future. Going forward requires momentum. Backing up restrains speed.
- Keep close the new friends you made and create with them new memories. Even when distance of geography may separate you technology assists your remaining close.
Upon my return from working with John Guare with my having directed the regional premiere of John’s A FREE MAN OF COLOR I suffered severe Post Project Blues. I crashed harder than I had ever before professionally after a project’s end. I was nearly immobile mentally, and physically. The mental paralysis could have been fatal to my career and daily living. In order to survive, grow and prosper both professionally and personally I had to abandon my mourning for the project’s end. I had to push forward and abandon my loss. I retained fond memories while shunning depression. To conquer Post Project Blues I, like every artist whose heart is broken after a joyous project terminates, knew that in order to harvest future joys I had to return to seeding the field that is my career.
Plow forward so that you may seed and harvest new goals; especially if you’re currently enjoying a feast of a goal met.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of the new and expanded 2nd edition of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.